Search This Blog

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rainbows and Butterflies

When I first dove into the world of medical advocacy, I had a very sick husband.  Time was of the essence, and I combed through entry after entry about searching for treatment options within streaming lines of content.  The pictures that accompanied the research were stock photos of plump happy “patients.” It bothered me.   Where was the reality in this?   Where was the soul?

After my husband Fred died, I began to do massive amounts of image research online to better prepare me for my painting advocacy.  I grew more and more resentful of the way providers and patients were depicted.  I grew outraged that there were so few strong visuals depicting the reality of health information technology, patient safety and patient rights.  My thoughts buzzed within my head, not unlike an angry bee, as I found image after image of stethoscopes on keyboards to symbolize electronic medical record technology.  And saw far too many pharmaceutical companies and hospitals create warm and fuzzy visuals of the “Rainbows and Butterflies” variety.  Often to appropriately depict the type of scenarios patients were going through, I had to research instead the expressive realism of religious art and icon paintings.  

I would express my frustration at the unrealistic visual depictions within modern medicine to a select group of my Twitter friends.  Both Becca Price and Ted Eytan would often listen to my anti-stock photography rants that I would express in 140 characters or less.  Another person who would hear my frustrations about the lack of good visual depictions would be Lindsey Hoggle founder of Health Project Partners.

I met Lindsey on February 25th 2010 at an HIT Policy Committee Adoption/Certification Workgroup that my friend e-Patient Dave De Bronkart was submitting testimony to.  As an added bonus, my friends Cindy Throop and Claudia Williams were also in attendance.  There was an incredibly think packet of testimony that each attendee was given to read.  As I perused the pages of the document, I was dismayed to see so few visuals.  Dave was one of the only people that added cartoons support his points.  As I vented my frustrations, Lindsey was seated behind us.  I met Lindsey at a session break, she seemed really nice and she had lunch with us. 
I would meet Lindsey at many health meetings in the subsequent year.  I would speak on a panel that she assembled.  And I found out quite a bit about Lindsey Hoggle the person.  She is the opposite of stock photography.  She is real.
Rainbows and Butterflies: A Jacket for Lindsey Hoggle
This is Lindsey’s Jacket:  “Rainbows and Butterflies.”
Around the clock Mom
In this panting Lindsey is in the center.  In her work, Lindsey is in the background.  She lets others seek the spotlight while she works diligently for change.  But within this painting all eyes focus on Lindsey.  That is very appropriate, because Lindsey is the center that her family orbits around.  She is the sandwich generation, caring long distance for her parents.  She also is a single mother, providing succor and of financial help to her four children ranging from 25-14 years of age.  In this painting Lindsay has a halo.  That halo is a clock face.  This halo represents the long days and nights Lindsey works in the world of healthcare so she can help support her family.  Her hands are laced together to provide a leg up to her grandchild. 
Rainbows and Butterflies
Lindsey’s grandchild is trying to climb a fence.  This isn’t some fun climb upon a neighbor’s retaining wall.  This fence is at least 10 feet tall, wrought iron and imposing.  It represents divisions, within economics, healthcare access and class barriers.  Two of Lindsey’s children have successfully made the climb and have begun the descent to the other side.

To make matters worse, as these climbers attempt this feat, there is water rising all around them.  This dark expanse of water is filled with floating debris.  Keyboards with stethoscopes float by this struggling family.  Lindsey’s family ignores this symbol of health information technology, as their worries about rising water and little choices, drown out all desire to learn about a new system of care.
The family
To the right of the painting, Lindsey’s eldest daughter stands surrounded by family.  In her arms she holds her newest baby.  Her eyes engage the viewer, as if to ask, “What will you do to help us?”  I cannot help but worry about this mother.  How will she climb with such a small infant?
Grandma, Butterflies and the Everywhere Girl
To the left of the painting, Lindsey’s parents stand.  Her father gently taps her shoulder.  He has a worried expression on his face.  Her mother has turned away and studying a plant beside her.  Under many leaves of this plant, butterflies are roosting.  They are trying to save their wings from the brutal rain that has created this flooded scene.

Behind the wrought iron fence a rainbow expands across a sodden sky.  And to the far left behind the fence an oblivious stranger who saunters by.  You might recognize her.  She is  “The Everywhere Girl.”  She is the queen of stock photography.  She was used in multiple ad campaigns starting 2004 and she still occasionally turns up in a new one.
The Everywhere girl
She has made to the other side of the fence.  She gets to live in the world with the rainbow.  She doesn’t seem to see the troubling circumstance that Lindsey’s family finds themselves in.   There is a good reason for that.  She isn’t real, just like the rainbow she is an illusion.  She is this vision of a perfect college girl starting off her new life. 
The sandwich generation
Lindsey and her family are real.  Lindsey is doing her best, to keep her head above the water and support her family.  She works so hard to provide for them all.  The world of health is made greater by Lindsey’ presence.  She has taken her cue from the butterflies and learned some valuable lessons in regard to the world of health information technology.   Expect great change in your life and be ready for the time of metamorphosis.  Protect your fragile wings from the storm.  You will need them when it is time to fly.   
Roosting Butterflies


  1. Regina,
    The depth and intimacy of your work is breathtaking. You capture the best and most challenging parts of people, while still allowing them their dignity. Unbelievable. I cannot believe you remembered (and have the picture looking over my shoulder!) from the meeting where we met.

    When I first heard you chose "butterflys and rainbows" for my jacket, my heart skipped a beat. My children (three of them) had a wonderful teacher in elementary school, who is now a dear friend--who hatched Monarch butterflies each year for the children, then let them free from outside the classroom. The children, and adults learned of the significance, beauty and long journal of these butterflies. I have many drawings and paintings my children have created of butterflies from these school projects. Each year, I would pull the Milkweed stalks from my back yard and take them to school, as this is the only thing the catepillars eat prior to spinning their cacoon; Even after my children graduated, I still was the "milkweed source" for this awesome teacher, so as you can see, my past with butterflies is special.

    Perhaps the most powerful point of our connection is the rainbow.(And I will write more once I recover from the initial reaction to my jacket--tears of validation.)

    I am typing this from atop a 9th floor balcony in Ocean City, where I am attending a "Sand Soccer" tournament with my youngest child. Yesterday, the coach was talking with all of the girls in the den overlooking the balcony, when I suddenly looked outside our and before I could realize I was interrupting their meeting, said: "Look -- a rainbow!" It was so awesome that the girls (14 of them) ran outside and took pictures, which I will post. They giggled and teased me for completely wrecking the coaches meeting. The really WEIRD part was as they were taking the pictures, I looked down at my phone and saw a tweet from Regina Holliday--announcing she was painting my jacket: "Butterflies and Rainbows."

    Regina, my friend, you have a "sixth sense" ability of looking in one's soul. It's no wonder we all call you a dear friend soon after meeting you. Thank you. I am blessed to love this work and the many great people like you. And yes, there are no accidents.

  2. I wanted to share my rainbow picture--the one that I noticed outside minutes before Regina tweeted she was painting my "Rainbows and Butterflies" jacket.

    Fourteen girls, 4 adults witnessed the rainbow, we stopped to take pictures, but for whatever reason, the only picture that shows the rainbow was the one I took with my phone. And yes, I polled all the girls...Who knows. At least there were witnesses. Once again, thank you! I am so fortunate to be included in "The Walking Gallery."

  3. And here is my rainbow the story describes, not a fancy picture, but etched in my mind for eternity. Thank you, Regina.

  4. Dear Regina, Congratulations for your excellent job! Your pictures are so good! And I like your blog.

    Jose Marquez (Carlos' father)